Hotel insider Cosmopolitan, hip and hassle-free. All the conveniences you expect from a high-end international chain.
W Hotel, Istanbul
Eye-catching: the car door is opened by a smiling doorman who, in his fitted white T-shirt and "W" belt, has clearly been employed because his strapping good looks complement the pretty Ottoman building that houses the hotel. Out of the sun's glare, the lobby is dark and cocooning, with floating grey silk curtains, glowing purple crystals and mirrored cubes. Check-in is quick, easy and informative and within minutes we are whisked off down a ground-floor corridor to our room.
Just a kilometre or so from the Taksim area, home to some of Istanbul's most lively nightlife, the hotel is the centrepiece of the Akaretler Row houses, which were originally built in the 1870s to house high-ranking workers from the nearby Dolmabahce Palace. The Row has been redeveloped recently into upmarket shops and offices, which makes it an easy temptation for rampant consumerists. Just a step away, the shops include Jimmy Choo, Catherine Malandrino, Sergio Rossi, Marni, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs and more. Behind the Row, a warren of busy little streets packed with bakers, cafes and clothes shops gives an insight into the life of the locals, while further along the banks of the Bosphorus is Ortakoy, a fashionable little square where a waterside Rococo mosque and the popular House Cafe preside over the cool locals, intrepid tourists and teenage boys diving into the water.
Couldn't be bettered: intimate, friendly, cheerful and unperturbable. Within minutes of arriving in the room, the W's "Insider" called to place herself at our service. "I'm the Insider," she said, which dispensed with any awkwardness over remembering names. She's the person to call if you need any help with anything at all within the hotel.
Compact but beautifully decorated in dark woods and white linens. The washbasins are in the main room but hidden behind a folding door, while the shower room is separate (with a super-powerful shower). There was an iPod dock, TV, DVD player and Wi-Fi, and a back door leading out to a pretty little private back yard, with a wicker sofa and table - perfect for a spot of breakfast or a light lunch when the weather's good. The first-floor rooms have little bridges leading to their own private terraces one tier higher. Best of all, though, are the beds, which gave us the best night's sleep we'd had in years. Literally. The W Signature bed is made especially for the hotel, and the sheets, at 410 thread count, are just as good.
Where to go to see the real Istanbul, the best local city walks, which are the new restaurants and which are the overrated tourist traps.
The hotel's ultra-cool restaurant Spice Market plays host to the suave hipsters of Istanbul. Many a well-tailored suit, a chic designer dress and a cigar are to be seen here, understandably: the Asian-fusion food is exceptional, the mood is intimate and the carved-wood design details are fabulous. The lobby and the Living Room lounge area also attract go-getting media and design types.
They spotted on my passport that it was my birthday and delivered a huge, delicious chocolate cake to the room, together with a glass amulet (against the evil eye, of course) and a card signed by all the staff. Now that's service.
Scraping the barrel here, the only quibble was that the room was a tad dark, even with the terrace door open.
Cosmopolitan, hip, hassle-free and comfortable, and all the conveniences you expect from a high-end international chain, but with enough charm and design details to make it definitively a Turkish hotel. Superb.
W Hotel, Suleyman Seba Cad No 22, Akaretler, Besiktas, Istanbul 34357, Turkey, +90 212 381 2121. @email:www.whotels.com Doubles from Dh1,160 per night (excluding breakfast and VAT).